A Multi-Lectic Anatomy of Stiob and Poshlost’: Case Studies in the Oeuvre of Timur Novikov

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Ivor Stodolsky

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Abstract

The article introduces a new method for the empirical analysis of cultural phenomena, called multi-lectic anatomy. It is applied to two key culture-political “art actions” by Leningrad/Saint Petersburg artist Timur Novikov (1958–2002), who gained fame through a wide range of symbolic conceits, creating assumed satirical intentions, cynical denials, kynic hoaxes, and spoofs. The article models actual audiences’ differing judgments of Novikov’s performances. The case studies introduce the formal vocabulary of multi-lectic anatomy, expand Alexei Yurchak’s well-known discussion of stiob and the performative shift, and adapt the Russian concept of poshlost’ to discuss perceptions of moral and aesthetic bad faith. Many observers took delight in Novikov’s postmodern games and paradoxes. The article describes these as elaborate cultural expressions of a banal vacuum of values, and raises questions concerning the wider historical significance of Novikov’s supposedly dangerous artistic strategies.
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